January 16, 2015
By Ekta R. Garg
In this week I’ve received several reminders of the horrifying reality of parenting: The kids grow up.
Go ahead and laugh. Non-parents may shake their heads with an amused smile and think I’m being facetious or cliché or stereotypical. Parents will probably relate to this. Somewhere between all the laundry and packing lunches and convincing a child that, no, you really don’t need a Band-Aid on that non-bleeding cut…somewhere in the middle of all that, they grow up.
And they’re sneaky about it too. They don’t tell you that’s what they’re doing. They just—do it.
Last week during P.E. Six ran into a friend while playing volleyball, and the two bumped heads. On Monday when Six got out of dance class, she said her head had started hurting again.
“Okay,” I said, trying to stay nonchalant (all the while envisioning CT scans and a dramatic suitable-for-a-Lifetime-movie pose.) “Where does it hurt?”
She described her injury to me, and I examined her forehead above one eyebrow. Sure enough, I saw a hint of a bruise.
“Do you see any spots or anything?” I asked, running through the most basic litmus test for brain injuries.
“No,” she said.
“You don’t see double of anything, do you?”
“Okay. Well, when we get home Daddy can look at it.”
“Because he’s the doctor,” she said. “I knew you’d ask me those questions. It’s not like I’m seeing anything, like, whoa, or something.”
“How did you know I was going to ask you that stuff?” I asked.
“Because I’ve seen it in the movies and on TV.”
Wow. Um, okay.
That day I’d also made keema to go with our dinner. It’s an Indian dish made of ground meat in a tomato-based gravy. Often it’s made with ground mutton, but I up the protein factor by using ground turkey. Six absolutely loves keema and asks for it often.
After Six’s dance class we went home and I put the finishing touches on dinner. Eight wandered into the kitchen and asked the same question I hear almost every night.
“What’s for dinner?”
I told her that I’d made eggplant for the grownups and keema for everyone.
“Does [Six] know?” she asked right away.
“No, not yet,” I answered. Eight wandered off, and I wondered if she would tell her sister about that night’s dinner selection. The way she’d asked the question made her sound so much older than her eight years.
My older daughter has started surprising me in the morning too. The designated “slowpoke” in the family, almost every day this week Eight has showered and gotten dressed before her little sister.
Six, my coiled spring of a child, wakes up and within minutes will begin chattering about everything and anything imaginable. Eight usually needs a few extra minutes to get her brain going, much like I do. She’ll move through the first 20 or 30 minutes of her morning with sleep still clouding her eyes. But somewhere between brushing her teeth and taking a shower, she wakes up.
Not only does she shower all by herself, but she’s also taken over the responsibilities of getting dressed by herself. In the past Eight used to lose time in this part of her morning routine. But this week she moved through it with much more intention, which in turn has allowed her to get ready faster.
Six got miffed. How, she wanted to know, did her sister get ready before her? I think she felt a little offended. After all, didn’t she carry the family distinction of getting ready fast?
The first morning Eight got ready at her new pace, I waited for her to go downstairs for her breakfast and then appeased Six with the thought that we should encourage her big sister. She’s usually a slowpoke, right, I asked. So we should be happy that she had started moving faster. If Eight got ready faster, then Six could get out of the house faster.
In the meantime I’m starting to wonder what happened to the little girl who used to be my first-born child. When did this willowy eight-year-old show up?
Six has had her moments of responsibility too. Yesterday Eight sat in the dining room doing her homework. Her grandpa turned on the TV in the living room, and he chose an Indian comedy program where the live audience was in splits at the cast’s latest improv routine.
Eight put a hand to her head. “That’s so distracting! What is going on in there? Dadu has the TV on so loud.”
“He’s watching Comedy Nights with Kapil,” Six answered.
Eight didn’t say anything, but Six did. She went to her grandfather.
“Um, Dadu?” she said in a quiet tone. “Di-Di is doing her homework, and the TV is bothering her, so could you please lower the volume?”
My father-in-law complied right away, and Six went back to her sister to report the request she’d made.
Who are these childr—no, young ladies? Where have they come from? Since when do they possess such a deep sense of maturity about themselves and those around them? No one told me this would happen when I accepted the little bundles in the hospital.
Parenting. It’s the biggest scam. And the biggest rip-off. You invite these little people into your world, they rob you of your sleep, your sense of calm—even your heart—and then they don’t stay little. Worse, at some point they leave you.
Whenever we talk about the kids’ 529 college savings plans, we often bring up the point that Eight will start to utilize that money in less than a decade.
Less than a decade.